Is A Collar Or A Harness Better For Chihuahuas?

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Ahh, the old collar vs harness debate in dogs. This has been a topic of discussion among dog owners and pet store employees or veterinary professionals for many years.

There is always a concern about your dog pulling too hard and choking themselves or causing damage to their trachea.

But what about in specific breeds, such as the littlest dog in the canine kingdom, the Chihuahua?

If you’re trying to decide between purchasing a collar or harness for your pint sized Chihuahua then keep reading to find out the pluses and minuses of both options!

By Allison Salonko.

Allison is a Veterinary Technician in the state of Indiana. She graduated from International Business College and Vet Tech Institute of Indianapolis with a degree in Animal Science and Technology in 2011.

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Chihuahua Wearing A Collar: The Pros And Cons

Most of the time, your Chihuahua will probably be close to you in the safety of your home, purse or arms.

While it is always a good idea to have your dog walking on the ground on a leash to develop confidence, this little breed is known for being carried around and toted in purses or small bags.

Pros Of Collars


Having a collar with a name tag helps strangers identify your dog if they have managed to escape the home.

Not only that, but from a distance, it is obvious if a dog is wearing a collar, meaning that they most likely have an owner.


Collars are a form of safety because they allow for a place to grab a dog for either restraint, capturing or even lifting out of unwanted situations or scenarios.

Clearly, using the collar in that way should only be done sparingly for very short amounts of time as pulling on the collar for too long can cause discomfort, choking and suffocation.

More Discrete 

Collars are smaller than harnesses and have fewer materials, meaning that there is less wear and rubbing against your dog’s fur or skin when they are adorning a collar.

Variety And Options 

There are several different styles of collars, ranging from round to flat to martingale.

All of these choices are great, however, it’s just a matter or personal preference which one you will like the most.

Martingale style collars are great for dogs that pull and for dogs that are good at slipping out of their collars.

Cons Of Collars

Slipping Out Of The Collar 

This is a big concern, especially because they are typically in public when this happens.

Collars that are too big can easily come right over your dog’s head if they stop too suddenly.

This is especially common in breeds that have bigger necks than they do heads such as Shetland Sheepdogs, Collies and Greyhounds.


While it is usually the dog pulling too hard that is causing the choking, it is still not recommended to use collars in dogs that are prone to coughing, gagging or choking themselves when wearing one.

Damage And Discomfort 

If a dog pulls too hard on the leash when they are wearing a collar, they can cause damage to the cartilage in their trachea or throat.

This can cause future pain and discomfort as well as concerns with collapsing trachea.

Collars can be associated and directly linked with neck and back pain as well.

*** Please avoid collars that are meant to be used as “corrective.”

This includes prong collars, choke collars and shock collars.

They are cruel and don’t usually fix this issue at hand, which is usually pulling.

Check out our article on the best collars and leashes to use for dogs that pull!

Chihuahuas And Harnesses: The Pros And Cons

It is thought that harnesses are not only more comfortable for dogs but that they actually eliminate potential pain and discomfort associated with typically wearing a collar.

I usually recommend harnesses when there is a Chihuahua patient that suffers from coughing or collapsing trachea.

Collapsing Trachea In Chihuahuas: What Is It?

This is commonly seen in small breed dogs like Chihuahuas, Poodles, Yorkies and Pomeranians.

The condition is where the cartilage in the trachea that supports their airway actually collapses as they inhale, causing a horrible and noisy breathing that sometimes ends with them in respiratory distress.

Harnesses in dogs that have this condition is an absolute necessity as collars will only make collapsing trachea worse.

Pros of Harnesses

No Slipping Out 

Collars are easy for dogs to pop their heads out of and go running off, but harnesses are much more complicated.

If your Chihuahua is an escape artist, then using a harness should keep them from getting away as easily.

Avoiding Injury 

A harness will keep your dog from pulling too hard and causing any damage to their trachea and throat.

Minimizing Symptoms Of Tracheal Collapse 

Like mentioned previously, tracheal collapse in dogs is distressing and keeping them in a harness will minimize the symptoms and issues associated with it.

Cons Of Harnesses

They Pull Harder 

Granted, your 5 lb Chihuahua is less likely to take you for a walk than an 80 lb Labrador, but a harness still gives your dog more strength and power to pull you when it clips behind their shoulders.

Awkward To Put On 

Sometimes harnesses feel like they are a puzzle and can be very awkward to take on and off of your dog.

Less Comfortable 

Harnesses mean there is more material strapped to your dog, which they may not like and find quite uncomfortable and hot depending on the weather.

Collars Vs Harnesses In Chihuahuas – Which Is Best?

The truth is, either one of them is fine for the Chihuahua breed.

They are small and typically not going to pull so hard that they hurt themselves.

If your adorable little apple head suffers from collapsing trachea or coughing in general, then converting to a harness would be recommended.

Photo: Victor